Top seed Reeves rallies, averts upset
By DAVE KOERNER
Reeves was congratulated by Rachel McQuillan after winning their match yesterday in the Yum! Brands/Pepsi-Cola $50,000 Women's Tennis Championships at U of L's Bass-Rudd Tennis Center.
Samantha Reeves walked onto Court 1 at the University of Louisville's Bass-Rudd Tennis Center shortly before 10 yesterday morning. Her game arrived about 50 minutes later, after the No. 1 seed had fallen behind 5-2 in her match against Rachel McQuillan.
But Reeves quickly recovered, winning the next eight games and 11 of 12 for a 7-5, 6-1 victory to reach today's round of 16 in the second annual Yum! Brands/Pepsi-Cola $50,000 Women's Tennis Championships.
"I didn't panic. I just kept on fighting, and I think she got rattled," Reeves said of McQuillan, who is from Australia.
Reeves admitted she thought of a couple of facts in particular — her lofty seeding and No. 88 world ranking — as more and more people gravitated to the stands to watch a possible upset.
"I think that's why I pulled that match out," said Reeves, 24, a native Californian now living in Miami. "I was just so calm. I just kept playing the ball, and I didn't get upset."
Both Reeves and McQuillan said they arrived in Louisville a bit weary from having just completed a demanding three-week schedule in World Team Tennis.
"I got up this morning, and it was hard just functioning," said McQuillan, laughing. "In Team Tennis, we travel all over the country. We play every night, from 7:30 to 11, then we eat dinner, and it's 2 by the time we go to bed."
Said Reeves: "We literally played every day. It was exhausting, and we just finished Monday. We're both tired."
McQuillan, however, couldn't help but notice Reeves' second wind.
"She lifted her game, and I went back some," McQuillan said. "I think she picked up a lot of confidence, and confidence can make a big difference in how you play."
Keep in mind, too, that Reeves appears to be on the threshold of making a big impression on the tour.
She has been ranked as high as 62nd but then slipped before recently reaching the third round in singles at Wimbledon.
"It's a tough tour," she said. "Maybe you'll do well in one tournament, then lose points in the next. But I'm not concerned at all."
At Wimbledon, Reeves defeated Anna Pistolesi – ranked 26th at the time – 6-4, 6-4 and No. 43 Fabiola Zuluaga 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 before falling to No. 2-seeded Kim Clijsters, an eventual semifinalist.
"That really gave me a lot of confidence — `Hey, I can beat a ranked player,' " Reeves said.
Naturally she hopes to carry that momentum into the upcoming U.S. Open.
"That's the last big tournament of the year for me," she said. "I'm just trying to get matches in."
Reeves made her WTA Tour debut in 1997, playing in eight events, including the Grand Slams. She reached the second round once and failed to qualify at nine other Tour events.
On the personal side, there are a couple of things worth noting about Reeves.
At age 15 she told MTV that she compared her game to the band Pearl Jam, that it's versatile and plays slow and fast, much like her style, as she hits hard and slow balls with topspin and slice.
"Oh no," she said yesterday. "I hear that everywhere. I don't even listen to them very much anymore. I was just trying to be creative, and everybody at my school was so excited, `You're on MTV.' "
She added, laughing, "I've tried to update my bio."
Reeves also has shown up at tournaments wearing a "Cheesehead" from having lived in Wisconsin for five years.
"I'm a big Green Bay Packers fan," she said.
Reeves quickly fell behind 3-0 against McQuillan, held serve, then trailed 4-1 and 5-2 before suddenly finding her touch in the eighth game, in which she lost only the first point on a double-fault. That began her string of winning eight consecutive games.
"It was huge," McQuillan said of losing serve as Reeves pulled within 5-4. "I felt like I was running out of steam. I was just trying to get through the match."
Reeves coasted in the second set, forging a 3-0 lead before McQuillan broke serve. Reeves, however, twice returned the favor as she won the final three games.
"After I won that first set, I felt more confident," Reeves said. "In the beginning I think I was rushing a little bit."
Play will continue today, with the singles championship at 10 a.m. EDT Sunday, followed by the doubles final. Admission is $6. However, spectators may receive free admission by bringing canned goods for Kentucky Harvest.